Neil Maudsley, Money Management Advisor at Ingeus, advises on how we can budget effectively in the run up to Christmas.
‘Tis (almost) the season to shop shop shop, with a sprinkling of Christmas entertainment and a sack-full of festive food thrown in for good measure. All this condensed spending in the lead up to 25th December means the strain on your bank balance can be huge. So, what can you do to avoid a financial hangover in January?
1. Get your finances in order
As the effects of the cost-of-living crisis take hold, it’s more important than ever to control your Christmas spend – and if you have lots of people to buy for, entertain and feed, that spend adds up. Setting yourself a budget will help to prioritise spending.
Use an online budget planner to work out your outgoings, such as rent and bills, over the festive season, and create a spreadsheet to record how you spend your spare cash. Break it down into key categories – presents, food and entertainment – and input everything you buy, you’ll soon realise when you’re reaching your limit.
Christmas is only one day – it’s not worth ruining 2023 because of it.
2. Plan your presents
Prioritising who to buy for and drawing a line under those you merely feel obliged to give presents to isn’t about becoming scrooge. It’s about taking control of your finances.
The meaning of giving is lost when we feel an obligation to buy for work colleagues or neighbours, so if money is tight, consider only buying for your immediate family. People may thank you for it and feel relieved they have more money towards buying food for their children.
Agree a £5 or £10 cap on spending for friends or suggest a Secret Santa – suddenly the chore of buying for six people becomes more exciting and a fraction of the usual cost.
3. Grab a bargain
Retailers, online and on the High Street, are eager to entice customers to buy their Christmas wares with deals and offers galore.
How do you know which are the best, and genuine, discounts? Again, planning and preparation is key.
Black Friday returns on the last Friday of November every year, and there’s often great deals on offer the week before and the week after too, so it’s a prime time to find some bargains.
ign up to key financial expert sites to receive email alerts about discount days and note them in your diary. Likewise, use price trackers to help you decide when to buy the gifts – they’ll show how the price has changed over time and the cheapest place to buy it.
Scour charity shops or auction sites and, armed with your ready-planned list of people to buy for, you can snap up any bargain gifts.
4. Prepare a festive food menu
Sparkly packaging and tempting adverts make it easy to overspend on food, after all it’s the season for indulgence, right? By working out exactly what you want and need, you’ll avoid over-spending and wasting food.
Does ‘all the trimmings’ really mean the top of the range cranberry sauce or will a value-range jar give the same pleasure? Buy what’s right for your budget, but take advantage of special deals if they make a higher-brand item cheaper per gram than a lower range equivalent. Look out for supermarket deals on cases of wine or fizz closer to Christmas too. Plus, saving up coupons and loyalty points to use in December will help bring down the cost of the bill.
5. Sprinkle Christmas magic… cheaply
With children to entertain in the run up to Christmas it’s easy to blow your budget, but planning and creativity can bring down this spend enormously. Create lasting memories making gift tags from last year’s cards, or take an evening tour of your neighbourhood looking out for the best Christmas lights.
If you’re seeing friends, meet for drinks rather than a meal – who needs Christmas dinners before the 25th anyway? And don’t forget to give cards and presents then too – it’ll save on postage costs.